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A Father's Day history

Updated on June 8, 2014

I'd like to thank...

For many of us, the third Sunday in June might just be another day on the calendar. A day to catch up on chores, perhaps watch a ball game on the couch. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for a national holiday created over a century ago.

Father’s Day often takes a backseat to the more popular (and more commercialized) Mother’s Day holiday in the United States. Created due the popularity of the day for mothers, Father’s Day nearly seems like a quick pat on the back more than a celebration. But then again, athletes and celebrities do tend to leave out the old man in their acceptance speeches and interviews, mothers being the highly touted “thank you” receivers.

Father's Day done right: beer, food and a wagon

courtesy: wikipedia
courtesy: wikipedia

A Brief History of Father's Day

Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd had the right idea, when she arranged a tribute for her father in 1910, after listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in Spokane Washington. Dodd is believed to be the first to solicit such a celebration proposal. It was a proposal that was met with criticism and ridicule, however, and almost did not see the light of day. The holiday was mocked and many compared it to “Grandparent’s Day”, or even “National Clean Your Desk Day”.

At one point, the joking went as far as declaring the dandelion the Father’s Day flower, as “the more you trample on them, the more they grow”. The criticism stemmed from Mother’s Day type gifts for flowers, trinkets and cards being given to men, who generally were embarrassed by the thought. Even the necktie started to lose its luster in the fashion world, having become the token Dad’s Day souvenir. Thankfully, technology has given way to a more testosterone friendly gift giving exchange. Nothing says “thanks for making me mown the lawn when all the other kids were riding their bikes” quite like an iPod, digital camera, the Doobie Brothers live in concert on BluRay.

The Associated Men’s Wear Retailers would have none of the mocking of this holiday and in the 1930s formed a National Father’s Day Committee in New York. Their goal of legitimizing the holiday was helped by the passing of a bill in 1913 and Calvin Coolidge supporting the idea a decade later. In modern times, Mother’s Day spending trumps Father’s Day by nearly $7 billion, leaving pops with a token of your appreciation at around $27.

Perhaps the Germans have it right. There are two terms and/or events of an older origin that while similar in name, have entirely different meanings. Vatertag, is always celebrated on Ascension Day (the Thursday forty days after Easter), which is a federal holiday. Regionally, it is also called men's day, Männertag, or gentlemen's day, Herrentag. It is tradition to do a males-only hiking tour with one or more smaller wagons, pulled by manpower. In the wagons are wine or beer and traditional regional food, such as Liverwurst, Blutwurst (Blood Sausage), vegetables, eggs, etc. Many men will use this holiday to get very drunk, to the point of having gangs of drunk people roaming the streets, causing much embarrassment to the German people who don't participate, and giving the holiday a very bad name in Germany. Police and emergency services are in high alert during the day, and some left-wing and feminist groups have asked for the banning of the holiday. Some parts of Germany (such as Bavaria and the northern part of Germany) call this particular day "Vatertag", which is the literal equivalent to Father's Day.

Happy Vatertag everyone


Just for you, Pops

This Father’s Day, record your own speech thanking the old man, buy him anything but a tie, and fire up your lawn mower and chop down that crab grass in your front lawn for old time sake.

Gift ideas:
Ditch the tie! However, think about a gift card to an upscale local men's attire store, and let him pick the tie (and other accessories) himself.
Personalize it. Photo coffee mugs with pics of the family are a fun way to keep a strong family vibe going anywhere dad goes. Photo mouse pads are a great idea for the office, as well as a digital photo frame, so he can show off the family to his coworkers. A custom bobblehead might be too much, but its still a fun idea (see here:


Since writing this a couple years ago, I have become the father of an amazing little man. I look forward to many special days with the little guy. The history of the day is an interesting one, but now I cant wait to make a history of my own doing fun things with him and my wife as he grows into a young man. Who knows what surprises he has for me in the future. I can imagine the tech gifts are only going to get better.

How was your Father's Day?



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    • veronamex profile image


      7 years ago from Montreal, QC

      Made me realize how pops don't get that much brouhaha. First Father's Day without my pa around on this physical plane. Love him and miss him. Thanks for the tribute!!!

    • megmccormick profile image


      7 years ago from Utah

      Love the "Food, Beer and a Wagon" pic! Enjoyed the Father's Day nuggets thx!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I didn't know anything about the history of Father's Day. In France it's the same as the US : Mother's Day is much more popular (and people remember the date more easily!)

    • profile image

      Acne Pimple 

      7 years ago

      I love My dad!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      7 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Terrific tribute to dads!!! Voted UP/Awesome

    • sameer.anand profile image

      Sameer Anand 

      7 years ago from Pilani (India)

      I never knew that father's day had so much of turns in its history!!!

      It was a real good hub.


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